What Gamergate Says about "Gamer" Culture

Gamer: “a person who plays games and especially video or computer games.”               – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

We are many of us, gamers. What began as a small minority of people thirty-forty years ago has ballooned into a large portion of the present population. Games are everywhere. Computers brought them into the home. Consoles like the Atari 2600 and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) brought them to our TVs. Today, smartphones allow many people to carry a large game library around in their pockets. And of course, before that: there were board games. As time passed, the gaming population grew and diversified. People who were never “gamers” before suddenly found themselves glued to the screen. Basically: change.

The Nintendo Wii was the first console to explode gaming into entirely new markets.
The Nintendo Wii was the first console to explode gaming into entirely new markets.

With change comes great things. More gamers = more games. No two ways about it. The industry has exploded and now we have major publishers and casual people all making games together. Choices. Choices. Choices. New technologies, new controllers, new concepts. More gamers have greatly increased the variety of experiences to be found when gaming. Has there been a negative?

Of course: Gamergate (not to be confused with GamersGate… which is a really unfortunate name to have right now).

For those out there who don’t know, I will summarize. Indie game developer Zoe Quinn created Depression Quest, a game designed to help people struggling with depression. Following the suicide of actor Robin Williams, Quinn elected to release her game for free on the popular gaming marketplace, Steam. She charged people only “what they wanted to pay” and gave all proceeds to charity. I know, sounds like the pillar of controversy so far.

There were some who felt Quinn was using Williams’ suicide for personal gain, despite the before mentioned facts. Her largest detractor, however, came in the form of her ex-boyfriend, who alleged that Quinn had a relationship with Nathan Grayson in order to receive a favorable review for her game. Was there a relationship: yes. Did Grayson ever write a review: no. Did he write an article about Quinn: yes, months before the relationship.

screen-shot-2014-10-11-at-11-44-19-am

Regardless, some people felt that the ethics of video game journalism had been violated. This is not the first time such accusations have come up. Popular gaming review site Giantbomb was founded after a critic gave a bad review to a game that had wanted to receive a good one. The reviewing bias of other AAA titles, such as Grand Theft Auto IV, Call of Duty, Destiny, and others has also been called into question.

If we are to believe the most positive spin on Gamergate, it was misdirected anger after all of the other breaches in the ethics of video game journalism. Really though, even if those allegations were true: are we really getting mad at the person who designed a game that helps people with depression? A game she released for free? “What a bitch” are not the words that come to mind.

There are some who feel that games really are not a big deal and really should not be used in most areas of political and civil strife.
There are some who feel that games really are not a big deal and really should not be used in most areas of political and civil strife.

That’s the positive spin. In reality, Gamergate is nothing more that the extreme hateful reaction of a small minority in the face of change. In the weeks following the lies against Zoe Quinn, many people were targeted by Gamergate. To say there was a pattern in which people were targeted would be an understatement. Do a check right now. If you are a woman, you would have been targeted. Men: not so much.

Because receiving death threats and having information leaked is the most sensible way to make money.
Because receiving death threats and having information leaked is the most sensible way to make money.

I am not going to try to give the event a balanced spin because I do not feel it deserves one. Regardless of the state of video game journalism, Gamergate was wrong and, in some cases, illegal. People were threatened with physical violence and it even went as far as death threats. I say people but really: women were the target. Whether it was Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian (who I personally do not agree with), Felicia Day, Brianna Wu (again, notice the pattern), Crimes were committed against each of these women and that is never excusable.

Gamergate punched a black eye in the public image of gaming culture. Let me stress one more time: whoever leaked personal information, threatened to hold a shooting, made death threats: these are all serious crimes. I hope these individuals are tracked, found, arrested, and persecuted to the full extent of the law. Forget leaking nude photos, this is much more serious.

Chris Kluwe, one of the harshest critics of Gamergate, was not targeted. I could say more but please: read his words.
Chris Kluwe, one of the harshest critics of Gamergate, was not targeted. I could say more but please: read his words.

Okay, that said: Gamergate means nothing exceptional to gaming culture. It has been the actions of a few radicals, not the overwhelming majority. In the months following these unfortunate incidents, many in the industry have been very public in their condemning of Gamergate. Many gamers have also stepped forward and voiced their support of Quinn and the other victims involved.

To go back to what I wrote in the beginning: gamers are everywhere. If you have a population of at least hundreds of millions, some of them are bound to be a**holes. That’s just a fact. I do not say that to excuse the behavior, but let’s examine some other examples of large cultures reacting to certain situations.

Gay Rights

Popular opinion: whether you’re for Gay Marriage or not, most people conclude that homosexuals are human beings like everyone else. They are entitled to the same treatment of respect and courtesy, and really – being gay is (thankfully) no longer the incredible taboo it once was, in certain areas at least. Okay, here is the extreme:

Interracial Marriage

Popular opinion: sure, why should color of skin matter if two people love each other? Well, let’s ask this enlightened soul:

Immigration

Popular Opinion: Okay, very complex issue. There’s a lot of opinions out there. Safe to assume though, most people don’t think like this:

Gaming

Popular opinion: everyone is entitled to play games, they are for everyone.

Well f*ck.

There will always be idiots, in any culture. A vocal minority, composed of the worst humanity has to offer, who will spew their vile hatred at pretty much anything that offends/scares them. The good news is that: most are not championing their cause but rather speaking and acting against them. This is progress. Gaming is changing, becoming more inclusive every year. People are going to have to deal with that.

Being a “gamer” means nothing more than the fact that you play games. It is not an elite group, it is not something to be proud of or ashamed of. Men are gamers, women are gamers, children are gamers. Heck, even this lizard:

Hmmmm, actually now that I think about it, that lizard may have slept with someone to get a popular Youtube video. #Lizardgate

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